Friday, April 2, 2010

Metro Unemployment Centers Overwhelmed

By Bill McMorris, Illinois Statehouse News
The state’s most populated areas continue to struggle with joblessness, and in some cases it’s overwhelming unemployment programs. John Strandin, a coordinator with Illinois workNet in Rockford, said work assistance programs have been flooded in recent months in an area where nearly 1 in 5 people are unemployed.

“Starting probably the beginning of last year–early ‘09, we started to see an influx of people seeking assistance, wanting to sign up for programs where they can get help with job training,” he said.

That influx initially overwhelmed job assistance services, as unemployment rose 4 percent in the past year. Before the recession, Strandin said, workers were able to obtain services the moment they opened the door. Over the past year, however, people have been forced to wait weeks for job training and placement.

“That’s created quite a backlog of people who need to access these services, and we are just now starting to catch up with that backlog,” he said. “That is how large the number (of unemployed) has been.”

Illinois workNet represents a collaboration of groups formed to implement federal and state job creation initiatives. The group works with businesses in the local community to  put people back to work and provides workers with training and education to help prepare them for future careers.

Greg Rivera, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Employment Security, said the situation is grim. Communities just do not have enough jobs to help workers transition from layoffs.

“We simply are experiencing unemployment rates that we have not seen since about 1983 for much of the state,” he said. “And when we talk about the availability of jobs–we are talking about a job level that is at 1995 levels.”

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